Knowing about the health benefits of raw milk is not enough. In his book The Devil in the Milk, Dr. Kevin Woodford says we have one more lesson to learn: there is a link between the type of milk we drink and a range of serious illnesses, including heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism and schizophrenia. Epidemiological evidence from ten countries has demonstrated a strong association between high intake of milk from A1 positive cows and high incidence of these diseases, and has correlated very closely with World Health Organization data on the level of deaths from mental disorders.
Dr. Woodford, Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University in New Zealand, points out that milk consists of three parts: fat or cream, whey, and milk solids. The devil resides in the milk solids, composed of many different proteins along with lactose and other sugars. One of these proteins is beta casein.
All proteins are long chains of amino acids that have many branches coming off of the main chain. Beta casein is a chain with 229 amino acids and proline at number 67, at least in old fashioned cows, the ones that are A2. These include Guernseys, Jerseys, Asian and African cows. About five thousand years ago, a mutation occurred in this proline amino acid, converting it to histidine. Cows that have this mutated beta casein are the A1 cows. These are more recent breeds in the span of history, like Holsteins and Friesians.
The side chain coming off this histidine is a protein fragment known as beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM 7). The negative health effects of this fragment can be devastating because it is a powerful opiate or narcotic as well as an oxidant. Dr. Thomas Cowan has thought all along that something was “not quite right” on the milk issue. Writing for the Bovine, he says that many of his patients, in spite of trying to eat only the proper dairy products still have illnesses and are unable to tolerate milk. He has suspected “the story with milk wasn’t quite finished.”
In his attempt to finish the milk story, Woodford brings together a pile of evidence from more than 100 scientific papers examining population studies and research with both animals and humans. He explains the science underpinning the A1/A2 hypothesis and shows that BCM 7 is associated with milk intolerance and a range of auto-immune diseases including Type 1 diabetes, the diabetes that usually occurs during childhood or young adulthood. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the body destroys its own insulin-producing cells.
There is an important difference between the human beta casein protein and the beta-casein produced by A1 cows. All human beta-casein is more like the A2 type, meaning that human milk releases much less BCM 7 than is released in A1 milk. When New Zealand researchers tested human milk, they found less than 1% of the BCM 7 than was released from the same amount of A1 milk. This means that the narcotic effect from human milk fed to babies is less than one thousandth of that found in A1 milk.
BCM7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people, particularly autistic and schizophrenic changes. It also interferes with the immune response. Animals injected with BCM 7 can be provoked into Type 1 diabetes. BCM 7 is pro-inflammatory to blood vessels, and selectively binds to epithelial cells in mucus membranes such as the nose and throat, where it can stimulate excessive mucus secretion.
When BCM 7 is released into the gut, it should be difficult for it to get through the gut wall and into the bloodstream because it is a fairly large molecule. But in people with leaky gut syndrome, it is able to pass easily through the gut wall and enter the bloodstream. Dr. Woodford states that BCM 7 can be detected in urine. According to him there is strong evidence that people with stomach ulcers or untreated celiac disease also absorb BCM 7 in this manner. Babies are likely to absorb it this way too, because their gut walls are able to pass large molecules easily into the blood stream. That is how they are able to absorb their mother’s colostrum.
This susceptibility of babies to the effects BCM 7 makes infant milk formula products from A1 cows a very poor choice. Opioids like BCM 7 slow the rate of passage through the digestive tract which explains to Dr. Woodford why babies fed on cows milk formula products rather than human milk are susceptible to constipation and can suffer anal fissures. He suggests it is possible that this slower passage of A1 milk through the digestive system may increase lactose intolerance.
He views early and prolonged exposure to BCM 7 in infant formulas as a significant factor in the rising rates of autism and Asperger’s syndrome along with the rest of the range of disease states that can result, and he is pushing for research on the topic. Until this is done, he suggests that mothers breastfeed their babies for as long as possible and insist on breast milk substitutes made with A2 milk.
The reasons for the mutation that produces BCM 7 is unknon, happening thousands of years ago. The A1 beta casein gene spread rapidly in many countries in the western world. Speculation has it that the spread of A1 cows resulted from their calves drinking A1 milk and being exposed to the opiate BCM 7, making them more docile than the older breeds. As a result, basically all American dairy cows have mutated beta-casein and are predominantly A1.
It is not known whether BCM 7 is likely to be a problem in cheese, ice-cream, yogurt, or other milk products. The French did not accept the A1 breeds of cows, and the delicious cheeses of France are made with A2 milk. In the U.S. there is only one A2 dairy so far, located in Firth, Nebraska.
Absorption of BCM 7 is much less in people with healthy digestive tracts, suggesting that maintaining digestive health should be a priority in anyone drinking milk in countries with predominately A1 cows. One of the best ways to achieve this is with daily use of probiotics.
What can we do about the fact that we have the wrong cows? BCM 7 is not found in goat’s or sheep’s milk which are A2, so drinking their milk instead of milk from cows is an option. Changing over a dairy herd of cows from A1 to A2 is simple and cheap, and it can be accomplished in less than ten years. It requires only that farmers inseminate their cows, naturally or artificially, with semen from A2A2 bulls. In New Zealand, farmers have already started converting their herds in anticipation of rising consumer demand for A2 milk. An added bonus for them is some recently published research revealing that on average New Zealand A2 cows produce more milk than A1 cows. Dairy farmers in the U.S. may be well advised to begin the switch to A2 as soon as possible to be able to market A2 milk products as consumer demand rises in the face of these findings.
This rosy scenario assumes no politics get in the way of an easy changeover, which could be a big assumption. Since the issue of the link between A1 milk and Type 1 diabetes and heart disease was initially raised in early 2003, the New Zealand Food Standards Authority has demonstrated clearly that in the battle between the interests of the dairy industry and those of public health, the industry always wins. As usual, scientific evidence can be molded and withheld by those with vested interests, and consumer choices can be manipulated by corporate interests.
For more information:
- Avoid Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance
- Importance of Goat’s Milk
- Milk Allergy Risk Identified In Natural Health Product
- Common Dairy Allergy Symptoms
- USDA says to eat more cheese while also supposedly working to fight obesity
- Lawsuit filed against USDA to stop organic milk fraud
- Natural Beta Blockers for Anxiety Attacks
- Does Sugar Crush work?